RSS, RSS Readers and Finding Information

Last week my long-suffering blog reader, Bloglines, pulled the plug.  I’ve since moved over to Google Reader and like it more than the last time I tried it.  Coinciding with Bloglines’ death, a few blog posts cropped up talking about the state of RSS (readers) and the evolved information gathering habits of the consumer.  I can’t say I totally get this new perspective that information should come to me, and active subscriptions are a thing of the past.

I read Don Dodge’s post last week where he first repeated Robert Scoble’s statement that “if the information is important, it will find me” and then goes on to say that he doesn’t really use RSS readers anymore and relies on real-time channels and content aggregators.  I don’t see how I’d be satisfied consuming my information only through the recommendations of others.  Unless I was (a) on Twitter 25 hours a day or (b) expected every thoughtful technical article would get snapped up by an aggregator, I don’t see how I could replace my own RSS reader.  In an RSS reader, I subscribe to the people who write things that interest me.  Why would I want to rely on others telling me that so-and-so just wrote something profound?

Today Dave Winer wrote an overall good piece on rebooting RSS where he mentions:

I keep saying the same thing over and over, the Google Reader approach is wrong, it isn’t giving you what’s new — and that’s all that matters in news.

Again, I just don’t see it.  Assuming that my RSS reader doesn’t ONLY subscribes to traditional news sources,  I do want “unread counts” and the backlog of things to peruse.  Sure, I don’t want or need a 12-day backlog of sports news from ESPN when I return from vacation, but when I have an RSS subscription to some of my favorite bloggers (e.g. Lori MacVittie of F5), I expect to queue up the interesting articles that aren’t time sensitive “news”, but rather smart opinion pieces.  I don’t use an RSS reader for traditional “news” as much as I use it to actively listen in on the long-form thoughts of insightful people.  I might be strange in that my RSS readers isn’t for news as much as following individual bloggers where this increasing obsession with information speed is less relevant.

So, maybe I’m clinging to old information consumption models, but I like RSS readers and not relying on browser bookmarks or the whims of my Twitter “friends” to identify smart content.  I notice that my blog gets a high level of traffic from syndicated readers (not site visits), so many of you all seem to be using RSS readers as well.

What say you?  Is traditional RSS consumption dead?  Do you instead use a mix of bookmarks, aggregators and social-sharing to find new information?

[Update: Great post from GigaOm that came in after mine and makes the same points, and a few new ones.  Recommended reading.]



Categories: Uncategorized

3 replies

  1. My approach is similar to yours Richard. I use RSS_Bandit and have a list of blogs i regularly read and just rely on that. I also review blog aggregators like “The Morning Brew” (http://blog.cwa.me.uk/) which have a really good collection of the latest stuff. I’m not sure what ‘real-time channels’ those guys are referring to and unless there was some kind of pub-sub for blog posts i think the pull model is the only option, (at least for me)

    cheers
    benjy

  2. I certainly rely on RSS to pick up articles from key technology bloggers. Most of the guys I follow post infrequently, but when they do post, it is often very useful. RSS is not something that I have issues with at all.

  3. I think Dave and you are both right — what users need is more /options/ for how they prioritize content. One big problem with most existing RSS readers is that they only allow you to order content in one way.

    Overcoming this has been one of the key things I’ve been working on with Activorous (http://activoro.us) — for instance, I might want to have my feed show me all Twitter updates in chronological order, Google News top headlines from the past 2 hours only, and then tech blogs for the past 2 weeks, most interesting stories first. There’s no single right answer for how content should be presented; it depends on the content and the user’s needs.

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